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Price-Gouging Hypocrisy Among Republicans

Summary:
As most everyone knows, Republicans have been celebrating the clownish antic of Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis for using hundreds of thousands of Florida taxpayer dollars to ship 50 immigrants from Texas and dump them in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. The thuggish act, which appears to include fraudulent representations made to the immigrants, was intended to expose the hypocrisy of rich, liberal residents of Martha’s Vineyard for having sympathy for immigrants but opposing letting them live in their homes. Perhaps Republicans would be better off, however, spending their time looking in the mirror and confronting their own acts of hypocrisy.  A good example occurred just recently during Hurricane Ian, when Republican governors from Florida, South

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As most everyone knows, Republicans have been celebrating the clownish antic of Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis for using hundreds of thousands of Florida taxpayer dollars to ship 50 immigrants from Texas and dump them in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. The thuggish act, which appears to include fraudulent representations made to the immigrants, was intended to expose the hypocrisy of rich, liberal residents of Martha’s Vineyard for having sympathy for immigrants but opposing letting them live in their homes.

Perhaps Republicans would be better off, however, spending their time looking in the mirror and confronting their own acts of hypocrisy. 

A good example occurred just recently during Hurricane Ian, when Republican governors from Florida, South Carolina, and Virginia enforced price-gouging laws, notwithstanding the professed devotion that such governors and their Republican supporters have for the principles of “free enterprise.”

What is free enterprise? It’s an economic system that is free of government control. That’s what the word “free” in “free enterprise” means. It doesn’t mean that goods and services are free. It means that in such a system people are free to engage in economic activity without any governmental interference. 

Republicans are famous for expressing their devotion to free enterprise. 

For example, in a speech last month at a National Conservatism conference in Miami, DeSantis  expressed his belief that “free enterprise” is the best economic system. 

Last year, South Carolina Republican Governor Henry McMaster stated, “South Carolina is a place that believes in free enterprise.”

A 2021 campaign press release issued by Glenn Youngkin, who is now the Republican governor of Virginia, stated, “Glenn Youngkin’s plan for Virginia supports free enterprise and fiscal responsibility.”

The Republican Party platform states: “A central reason why the 20th century came to be called the American Century was the ability of individuals to invent and create in a land of free markets.”

But then there are those price-gouging laws that all three of those Republicans governors enforced during Hurricane Ian.

What are price-gouging laws? They are laws that punish people for charging more money for their goods and services than what government officials feel they should be charging. In other words, they are a direct violation of the principles of free enterprise to which Republicans express their devotion.

Under the principles of private property, to which Republicans also express a devotion, an owner of a good or service has the right to charge whatever he wants. It’s his property. It doesn’t belong to the state, and it doesn’t belong to society. It belongs to him. If he wants to charge $100 for a bag of ice or a bottle of water in the midst of a hurricane or any other time, that is his right. 

Price-Gouging Hypocrisy Among RepublicansIf someone doesn’t like the price, he is free to walk away and not pay it. He has no right to force the owner, either directly or indirectly through the state, to charge what he thinks is a “fair” price.

Moreover, price-gouging laws actually make things worse for people hit by hurricanes or other natural disasters. Suppose, for example, there is a shortage of bottled water in an area hit by a hurricane. The fact that the price is shooting up is a signal to consumers: Conserve! Don’t waste! 

At the same time, the soaring price tells entrepreneurs: If you want to make a quick, hefty profit, get bottled water into that area. When that happens, the increase in supply causes the price to drop to more reasonable levels.

With price-gouging laws, the exact opposite happens. The lower state-mandated price causes consumers to waste water. Moreover, entrepreneurs do not have the profit incentive to get water to the affected area.

Republicans are right: free enterprise is the best economic system. But that necessarily means no price-gouging laws or any other governmental interference with economic activity. 

When Republicans point the finger of hypocrisy at Democrats, they would be wise to remember that there are three more fingers pointing back at themselves. 


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Jacob G. Hornberger
Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

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